Lucy Thomas

Lucy Thomas was just six years old when her family was given the devastating news she had cancer.

Because of the type of cancer she had, Lucy's best option was to have Proton Beam Therapy (PBT), an advanced form of radiotherapy not currently available in the UK.

Lucy, her parents Stuart and Caroline, and her brother Owen, had to travel almost 4.500 miles from Ramsbottom to Oklahoma in the USA for Lucy to have the high-tech treatment that would give her the best possible clinical outcome.

Lucy's cancer story started in 2012 when she had been feeling unwell for several weeks and her parents took her to see their GP several times.

It became clear that Lucy was not getting better from the original diagnosis of a virus and sinusitis and her parents took her to the local A&E department when they saw an unusual growth in her nose. 

Rare cancer 

Lucy was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with a rare type of muscle cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma.

After surgery and chemotherapy, she was referred to The Christie for follow up treatment including radiotherapy.

As part of her treatment, Lucy spent almost 11 weeks in Oklahoma receiving proton beam therapy.

Dad Stuart says: "One of the major benefits of proton beam therapy is that the beam stops when it hits the tumour and causes much less damage to the surrounding healthy tissue."

"Going to the USA was confusing for Lucy. They have a different health system, work in different ways and call things different names which is hard to explain to a poorly six years old. It would have been much easier for Lucy if this treatment had been available in Manchester. 

Missed school 

"Owen also missed around eight weeks of school whilst we were out there, so having to go to America for the proton beam therapy really hit us all.

"We kept in regular touch with family and friends back at home, but being away was upsetting for the whole family, and we felt cut off from our extended family and close friends."

Dad Stuart thinks it's important for PBT to be available in the UK, and says: "The main benefit of having proton beam therapy in the UK is that it will be much more accessible. In our case, Lucy's extended family would have been able to help support her though the treatment.” 

Opportunity for treatment  

Mum Caroline adds: "It's fantastic to know that proton beam therapy is finally coming to the UK. It will give more children like Lucy the opportunity to have this form of treatment, as not every family is as fortunate as us to be able to move to America for three months."

Lucy's treatment appears to have been successful and although she will always need to have regular check-ups, things are looking good. Now 8 years old, she has taken up piano lessons, enjoys going to Brownies with her friends and has rediscovered a love for swimming that she was not able to pursue because of a suppressed immune system after her treatment.